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Area C covers 60% of the West Bank, home to around 70,000 Palestinians. It is also the area in which most Jewish settlements, all illegal under international law, are built. Compelling statistical evidence shows that while it is extremely hard for Palestinians to obtain building permits, settlements continue to grow rapidly.
Research by the Israeli group Peace Now found that 94% of Palestinian permit applications for Area C building were refused between 2000 and September 2007. Only 91 permits were granted to Palestinians, but 18,472 housing units were built in Jewish settlements. As a result of demolition orders 1,663 Palestinian buildings were demolished, against only 199 in the settlements. "The denial of permits for Palestinians on such a large scale raises the fear that there is a specific policy by the authorities to encourage a 'silent transfer' of the Palestinian population from area C," Peace Now said.
This year there has been a marked increase in demolitions. There were 138 demolitions between January and March, most in area C, compared with 29 in the last three months of 2007, according to the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This year 400 Palestinians have been displaced as a result. At a time of a renewed peace process to create an independent Palestinian state, the reality in the West Bank is that Jewish settlements are growing and demolitions of Palestinian homes are on the increase.